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Key information gaps and development activities

High quality national data are crucial to understanding the extent, nature and impact of family, domestic and sexual violence (FDSV). National data are often used to inform decision-making to improve outcomes for people who are, or may be, affected by violence.

The 2010–2022 National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children drove improvements in national data and reporting on FDSV in Australia. Concurrently, states and territories have worked to improve data collection on services provided in their jurisdictions.

Moving forward, the 2022–2032 National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children (the National Plan) and associated Outcomes Framework will be supported by a Performance Measurement Plan and a data development plan, which will drive the national FDSV data priorities over the next decade.

This topic page provides an overview of key national information gaps and development activities related to research and statistical uses – these will be further refined once the National Plan data priorities are confirmed.

National information gaps

No single national data source can provide all the information needed to report on and understand FDSV. Instead, FDSV data are collated from a range of sources to provide a national picture. For a description of the different types of FDSV data available, see How are national data used to answer questions about FDSV? and Data sources and technical notes.

While there have been substantial improvements in FDSV-related data and reporting over the past decade, several national gaps remain. In broad terms, these overarching national gaps include limited data on:

  • The range of health, welfare and other support services people who experience FDSV may access. Information on the quality and integration of service responses is also limited.
  • Service pathways, impacts and outcomes for victim-survivors, perpetrators and families.
  • Select population groups, including perpetrators.

Table 1 provides further detail on current topics where national data for statistical purposes are not available or limited.

Table 1: Key topic gaps in national reporting of FDSV

Key topic area

Gaps in national reporting and data

Understanding FDSV

Prevention initiatives (e.g. improving community awareness and attitudes)

Extent and nature of FDSV

  • Unique forms of violence specific to certain groups (e.g. immigration-facilitated abuse, dowry abuse)
  • Coercive control (e.g. prevalence, perpetrator behaviours, severity of impacts)
  • Systems abuse (e.g. the use of legal processes to perpetrate harm against a partner)
  • Tactics for perpetrating abuse (e.g. through use of technology)

Responses to FDSV

  • Specialist FDSV services
  • Primary health care
  • Ambulance care
  • Emergency departments
  • Financial services and support (e.g. from financial counselling services or banks)
  • Legal services
  • Police and courts (e.g. family court responses, perpetrator movement through the criminal justice system)
  • Perpetrator interventions (e.g. behaviour change programs)
  • Other mainstream services (e.g. mental health, alcohol and other drugs, housing)

Impacts and outcomes

  • Pathways and use of services (for victim-survivors and perpetrators)
  • Long-term health and welfare

Population groups

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (First Nations) people
  • Children and young people
  • Pregnant people
  • Older people
  • LGBTIQA+ people
  • People with disability
  • People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
  • Perpetrators and young people who use violence
  • Veteran families

In some cases, data are available at the state and territory level, however comparability across collections is limited as different definitions and methods are used to support different requirements, which can be related to legislation or service scope. Data availability and comparability can also vary across government, non-government and private (for profit) sectors.

Improving national data

A broad approach is required to improve national FDSV data overall, comprising various activities:

  • Data development, such as:
    • new national data collections – collections may focus on a new topic or population group, or aim to improve national data comparability across services or jurisdictions.
    • new data items in existing national collections – this may include new items to improve the identification of people experiencing FDSV.

A key component of these activities is the development of clear definitions to support the collection of consistent and comparable information.

  • Enhanced analysis of existing data – enhancing the range and complexity of data analysis may help to expand the evidence base (e.g. for a specific population group), or improve FDSV identification (e.g. through specialised analysis of free text fields).
  • Integration of existing data – data integration, or data linkage, means bringing together two or more sources of data which relate to the same individual, event, institution or place, while preserving privacy. Data integration has the potential to offer the greatest insights into pathways across a range of health and welfare services, and the impacts of FDSV on broader and long-term well-being, for example economic and housing outcomes. Integrated data can also improve the identification of people who have experienced FDSV across data sets.

There are a range of considerations in improving data, including:

  • Existing frameworks to guide data collection and reporting, such as the ABS (2014) National Data Collection and Reporting Framework for FDSV and the UN Women (2022) Improving the collection and use of administrative data on violence against women.
  • Improvements should be appropriately targeted. For example, in seeking to improve FDSV identification in existing administrative data collections (through new data items, or enhanced analysis of existing items), consideration should be given to the level of relevance, and whether the benefit will outweigh the burden. In doing this, it is logical that improvements should be targeted to services that people who experience FDSV are more likely to come into contact with (e.g. mental health care), or those that women particularly at risk of FDSV may visit (e.g. perinatal services). 
  • Safeguarding victim-survivors’ confidentiality, in the context of sharing data for research and statistical purposes.
  • The principles of data sovereignty should be considered. Data sovereignty is the idea that people have the right to govern the collection, ownership and use of data about them. For example, the Australian Government is working with First Nations organisations and people to improve the access, relevance and governance arrangements relating to First Nations data (NIAA 2023). In the context of FDSV specifically, the expertise of people with lived experience should be considered, to ensure decisions about data improvements are undertaken in a sensitive and meaningful way.
  • Development of new data standards (e.g. for capturing new or better service response data) must be undertaken together with those responsible for funding and delivering services and supports. New data items or collections will generally need to be useful at the client, service, system and population outcome level, to justify investment.

A range of national data development activities are underway to expand and enhance FDSV data. Some examples of key national activities are provided in Table 2.

Table 2: Examples of key national data development activities

Data development activity

Description

Specialist FDSV services collections (New data collections)

The AIHW is leading the development of a prototype data collection on specialist crisis family and domestic violence services, which can include crisis accommodation, counselling, case management, safety planning and more. This work will inform recommendations for an ongoing national specialist services data collection which could be expanded and built on in the future, to enhance understanding of service usage, demand and gaps.

In parallel, as an action under the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030, the National Office for Child Safety and the AIHW will lead, along with the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia, a baseline analysis of specialist and community support services for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. This work includes a stocktake of existing services and an assessment of the feasibility of developing a nationally consistent minimum data collection for in-scope services (AIHW 2022).

Sexual offences collection and survey (New data collection)

As actions under the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030, the Australian Institute of Criminology is establishing:

  • Australian Sexual Offences Statistical Collection – this will be a comprehensive longitudinal statistical collection on all reported sexual offences in Australia. It will include information on the offence, the offender’s characteristics and the victim’s characteristics.
  • Survey of adult offenders incarcerated for child sexual abuse offences – this survey will include a range of offences, and will provide detailed self-reported information about child sexual offenders that will complement the Australian Sexual Offences Statistical Collection (DPMC 2021).

Closing the Gap Outcome 13 (Enhanced analysis of existing data)

The National Indigenous Australians Agency is overseeing the data development workplan for new national indicators under a range of Closing the Gap outcome areas. It is anticipated that reporting on selected supporting indicators for Outcome 13 (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and households are safe) may be progressed through new or refined analysis of existing data sources.

National Crime and Justice Data Linkage Project (Integration of existing data)

The National Crime and Justice Data Linkage Project aims to link administrative datasets from across the criminal justice sector, including police, criminal courts and corrective services, forming the ABS Criminal Justice Data Asset. Once fully established, this data asset could provide insight on how perpetrators of family and domestic violence move through the criminal justice sector, including corrective service outcomes for FDSV offenders. In the future, other health and welfare datasets could also be included to provide a more holistic view of perpetrators, and potentially, victim-survivors.

National FDSV integrated data system (Integration of existing data)

The National FDSV integrated data system project, led by the AIHW, aims to improve the availability of integrated national data that supports people-centred analysis of FDSV. The long-term aim is to have a more complete picture of the life experiences, service pathways and outcomes of people experiencing FDSV in order to inform policy and research. It aims to leverage and align with broader reforms to national data integration.

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